The American Dream in Black and White and Living Color

Every year, when the mood hits me, I dig out my “I Love Lucy” collection.  I generally rewatch my favorite episodes–from the pilot episode to the last Lucy-Desi comedy hour.  Maybe every ten years or so, I’ll watch the entire series straight through.

A long time ago, I read that the series personified the American Dream.  An immigrant comes to America and falls in love.  They get married, making two lifelong friends somewhere along the way.  Years pass and they have a son (though they were happy and content before–I think people were more accepting of their lot then, whether they wanted to have a baby and couldn’t, or vice versa); Ricky’s career progresses, and we see the Ricardos move from a modest apartment in the city to a spacious home in the country.  The only thing one might see amiss in this scenario is that Lucy wanted a career in show business, which she gives up in Hollywood when the chance is offered to her.

As a somewhat modern woman (who doesn’t think stay-at-home moms are relics who have outgrown their usefulness), I was bothered that Ricky laid the guilt trip on her in California, instead of letting her at least pursue the opportunity, but I get it–his career was what put the bread and bacon on the table.

In the comedy hour with Paul Douglas (towards the end of the series run), Ricky has mellowed and Lucy gets a job on a television show; Ricky, at long last, admits to her that she has talent.  It is only then that she realizes a showbiz career means sacrificing more time with her family than she is willing to, and she is finally satisfied in her role as a stay-at-home wife and mother.  I like that it ended that way, with it being Lucy’s choice, and not her husband’s.  Maybe all she ever really wanted was for Ricky to acknowledge that she had talent.

Last night, while I was holding my sleeping baby after her bath, I was on “Lucy is Enceinte”, and it was just one of those perfect moments.  That episode still brings tears to my eyes when I watch it.  (Just like the scene where Ricky tells his son the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” makes me smile, for there is nothing sexier than a man who spends time with his children.)

I know the American Dream means different things to different people–for some people, it means owning a home, for others, it means being able to travel and rent wherever they please.  For some, it means getting married and having a family (or not having a family), or having the freedom to leave the U.S. and live abroad.  You can live the Dream anywhere.  However, if I ever slip up and ask someone how they’re doing and they say, “Living the Dream”, I assume they’re being sarcastic.

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